The 2018-19 version of the Kansas Jayhawks have multiple qualities the program hasn’t seen for a few years. Incredible depth, two traditional big men, a top-10 defense according to Kenpom.com.
But the most rare of the 2018 Jayhawks qualities is that they are led by a freshman point guard that’s performing like no average freshman. So far this season, Kansas has gone as Devon Dotson has gone.
This was not the expectation. After the run of years with Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham at the point, point guard was a natural question mark coming into the season. As was whether Dotson or Charlie Moore would get the starting job. Those question marks have been replaced with a declarative period. Dotson is the Jayhawks’ capable, flashy starting point guard.
It hasn’t all been perfect. There have been a couple of overzealous freshman tendencies. But as Fetch pointed out in the Wofford recap, he makes at least one amazing play a game, and recently that number has been higher as his confidence grows. It’s clear already that he can get about anywhere he wants with the ball, and his speed and vision in transition can shift the momentum of the game. It also doesn’t hurt that, at least early on, he has an ability to finish at the rim as well as a Jayhawk his size in recent memory.
All of that has translated to Dotson averaging 11.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 steals through seven games. Yes, that’s a small sample size, but with the way Kansas schedules, the level of competition is not much worse than what the Jayhawks will face in the Big 12. Michigan State and Tennessee are arguably (and reasonably) better than anyone else in the Big 12, and Marquette is on par (according to Kenpom) with Texas and Oklahoma. And Dotson has been at his best against the best competition. His season-high 17 points, along with four rebounds and two assists in 40 minutes, came against Tennessee. Dotson also had 16 against both Michigan State and Wofford, and a 10-point, four-assist, three-rebound, three-steal game against Marquette.
The numbers may not be eye-popping by 2018’s standards, but they’re also not common. Freshman are not normally given the keys to the offense as a point guard from day one. And they don’t usually perform this well. Since 1992-93, Dotson is the only player averaging 11 points, three rebounds, and two assists as a freshman point guard. Mario Chalmers is most comparable, just switch the rebound and assist numbers and you’ll get Chalmers’ 11.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
And despite the Jayhawks’ success with freshman wings, Dotson is one of only four total freshman guards to average that stat line over a 26-year period (you’ll notice the search says 1.9 assists per game, as a bug within Sports Reference was removing McLemore and Rush when entering two assists to the search; their numbers warranted inclusions).
Sure, it’s still early. But at the rate Dotson has already progressed, and as he becomes more comfortable in the offense, there’s no reason to believe Dotson won’t be a better player in March than he is now.
That should be a reassuring thought to fans.